Friday, October 15, 2021

I Love Lucy at 70


Some 20 or so years ago, my sister, her family, and I had occasion to watch some old I Love Lucy episodes. I, of course, could remember watching I Love Lucy episodes as a child. What struck me so strongly, however, was how my nieces, who were growing up in a very different world, were as amused as I was by a black-and-white TV sitcom from the 1950s. What better evidence for how universally and perennially and authentically funny Lucy was!

I Love Lucy made its debut on CBS 70 years ago on October 15, 1951. The series ran on Monday nights for six seasons - 180 half-hour episodes - until May 6, 1957. The show starred Lucille Ball and her real-life husband Desi Arnaz as Lucy and (Cuban-American bandleader) Ricky Ricardo, with co-stars Vivian Vance and William Frawley as neighbors, Ethel and Fred Mertz. During the second season, on January 19, 1953, Lucy famously gave birth to a son, "Little Ricky," in an episode entitled "Lucy Goes to the Hospital," timed to coincide with Lucille Ball's real-time birth of her and Desi's son Desi Arnaz, Jr. After the series ended in 1957, The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show continued for three more seasons as 13 one-hour specials.

The show, was filmed in front of a studio audience, won five Emmy Awards and in 2012 was voted the 'Best TV Show of All Time' in a survey conducted ABC News and People Magazine. It influence even extended to the invention of the summer rerun tradition! 

I don't remember at what point I started watching I Love Lucy.  Whether I actually first saw "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" live, or in the series' summer reruns, I don't know, but Ido remember watching it and laughing. In those days, there were limited TV options (although we had many more stations to choose from in New York City than in many other locations). And, of course, there was only one TV. So whatever was on was watched by all. 

Lucy wasn't the only sitcom, of course. In my family, we watched Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet and I Remember Mama among early TV classics, but they were more like light dramas, whereas Lucy was unambiguously all about being funny in a classically clownish kind of way. And it was wonderful. And we all loved it! 

And, while the society and style of family life Lucy presumed and portrayed, seems anachronistic today, the comedy is still funny.  Somehow Lucy tapped into something universal in her humor, in a way few comedy acts can. 

It is also a reminder t hat there was once a time - in living memory - when life could be funny.

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